Thursday, May 31

Spinning with friends

Yesterday, I met up with three of my friends to spin for a couple of hours. I got to show off the Tina and try out my friend, Jess's, Jensen Saxony. She's had it for a couple of months. I've not had time to get over to her house to see it. It's a huge wheel and spins like a dream. Slower treadling for more spinning time. We both love our Jensens! Elizabeth and Liz got to take a turn at both wheels too.

I had visited the chiropractor in the morning and was running late. Got a quick bite to eat, checked on my kitties, grabbed the wheel and the closest fiber and headed out the door. Just made it on time. Looked at the fiber I brought and knew it wasn't my favorite choice to spin. It was Brown Sheep roving dyed turquoise, avocado green, and gold. I got it off Ebay. It was so NOT like the picture in the auction. Liz took one look at it and asked me if I would trade it to her for some blue and purple dyed Targhee. Of course I said yes! She knows my weakness. Blue and purple are my favorite colors and I've never spun Targhee before. This stuff is soft as a cloud and a joy to spin. I was having so much fun spinning it, I didn't want to stop to go home. (Liz, I borrowed this picture of the fiber from your Etsy shop--Chocolate Princess. I hope you don't mind. :-) She has wonderful handspun and handyed spinning fiber.)

I'm trading Liz a second bag of Brown Sheep roving from the same Ebay seller. It is very nice fiber; I just didn't care for the color. The picture of it showed pink, blue, and purple. The actual colors were much darker in shades of brick red, cobalt blue, and mauvey purple. In return, I get a bag of merino dyed blue and purple. We're both happy with the trades. You can never have enough spinning fiber!

I finished another pair of Elfin Slippers for my mom. I used gray Patons Merino Classic Wool. I've made 3 pairs of these slippers using this same yarn, the same pattern, the same knitting needles, and washed them the same way. So why did this pair come out of the washer looking like munchkin slippers? I stretched them out the best I could and left them to air dry. I gave them to Mom this morning. If they don't fit her, she can gift them to some else. I'll have to make her another pair soon.

I picked up the UFO Shetland scarf I started back in February with the blueberry merino and silk. It's been languishing because I couldn't knit for some time without pain in my back. I cast on the second side and am making progress. I'd like to get it finished and blocked so I can take it to show off at a lace knitting class I'm taking in early June. Anyone else going to IWannaKnit Retreat in Shipshewanna, Indiana this year? I'm not going for the entire retreat. I will be there all day on Saturday for Joan Schrouder's class. I can't wait to meet her!

The first clue is out for the new Goddess Knit Mystery Shawl KAL. This one costs $4 for a triangle shawl. I'm paid up and hope to start this shawl soon. I'm feeling lace deprived! I have to stash dive for 1200 yards of fingering weight yarn. Clue #1 went up on Saturday and someone has already posted a picture of the first section. It's a beaut! (Click on the button in my sidebar to join the KAL.)

Monday, May 28

A Secret is Revealed

It's a Jensen Tina II spinning wheel!!! I've been afraid to talk about this because I didn't really believe it was gonna happen until it actually arrived here on Friday. Only a few of my friends were aware I had located this wheel and was considering buying it.

The wheel came from the west coast from someone who did not take care of it. (I won't embarrass the previous owner if she reads this by mentioning names.) She used it as a travelling wheel and, in the process, damaged a number of pieces-- chipped a chunk off the edge of the wheel, as well as breaking the distaff, 2 whorls, the Scotch tension knob, and one bobbin. That's what made me hesitant to buy it. I'm glad I took the chance. The wheel itself is a sound piece of equipment.

It needed a lot of TLC to get it in the condition you see. It arrived dusty and dried out from being stored and neglected for who knows how many years. The date stamp on the wheel is February 27, 1999. The wood finish felt like sandpaper. I asked my friend Janet for advice on how to restore it. She said wash it, feed the wood, and oil it. Saturday, I collected the supplies I needed and began the clean up.

First, I washed it down with Murphy's Oil Soap. It looked so much better after being washed. I let it dry overnight. Yesterday, I rubbed it down with an organic furniture polish made with olive and lemon oils. It soaked in the oils like a thirsty child. Then my friend, Jessica, came over with a can of Wood Beams and proceeded to rub on two coats of it. The wood was so dry it kept sucking it in. The wood is beginning to glow and feels smooth. (Thanks, Jess!)

Now we were finally ready to put the wheel together and get it spinning. The bobbin, flyer and whorls were shipped separately so I was clueless how they all went on the wheel. I had sent out an appeal to the Yahoo Spinlist, Spinfree, and Spinning lists for pics and help. June from Kentucky came through with great pics and instructions on how to put it together. (Thanks, June!) With her instructions and Jess's assistance we assembled it. I hunted up some spinning fiber and sat down to try her out. Wow! It spins like a dream! I had to slow my treadling way down. It doesn't take much effort to make this wheel go. (Now I love my Little Gem, but I have to treadle pretty fast to spin the finer weights of yarn I like to spin.) Jess got her turn at the wheel too. She agreed it's a beauty!

Though the wheel is now functional, I still have some work ahead of me. I'd like to get the broken distaff fixed even though I probably won't use it. The replacement Scotch tension knob, bobbins, and whorls that were part of the deal will have to be stained to match the wheel. For the moment, I'm learning to use the wheel as a double drive. I'm used to Scotch tension on my Little Gem.

Sunday, May 27

Grafting in reverse

One project finally off the needles is the square baby blanket. I finished grafting the garter stitch last night for the second time. You read that right, for the second time! I actually finished knitting it earlier this week, then put it aside until I had time to graft the seam.

A day or so later, I pulled out my handy, dandy, Knitter's Handbook for help in grafting in garter stitch. (I've never done this type of seam before and needed a little assist.) I found a wonderful illustration and explanation on page 81. I prepared to graft. I pulled out the provisional cast on and put the stitches onto a circular needle. I lined it up parallel with the stitches on the other needle, threaded the yarn tail into a jumbo tapestry needle, and started stitching. Once I got into a rhythm, it was easy and relatively quick to sew together. This wasn't so bad. Then I took a closer look at the seam. I was beginning to suspect that all might not be well. It looked ok but something wasn't quite right. I flipped the blanket over and...


Instead of a nice garter stitch ridge seam, there was a glaringly different, flat, stockinette seam. This is so not right.

I tossed it to one side, trying to convince myself that this was a mistake I could live with. It was only an acrylic baby blanket. It was fine. Any baby worth their salt wouldn't care about this mistake. Yeah, right.

Now the thought had crossed my mind as I finished knitting the final rows of the blanket, that you had to end on the correct row to have the seam turn out right. I blindly followed the pattern directions and thought I was safe. I should have known better. And I should have read the grafting instructions in the book a little closer. The stitches on the lower needle should come out of purl bumps and those on the upper needle come out of smooth knit stitches. I took a close look at the seam. Yep, that's what I thought. Even though I followed the pattern instructions, it had me knit one too many rows to get the seam to come out right.

Then it sank in, I'll have to rip out the seam plus one row on the lower needle. It laid there for 2 days, taunting me and blowing raspberries each time I saw it. I surrendered last night. I put lifelines through both rows of stitches, slowly removed the seam stitches, and then ripped back one more row. Threaded my needle, placed the book on my lap open to the seaming page, and started slowly seaming it back up. I turned it over every inch or so to check on my progress. That looks so much better! Finished the seam and wove in the end. Now you can't tell the right side from the wrong side. Glad that's done. :-)

* * * * * * * * * *
Improvement to triangle shawl listing: Someone posted a comment asking if I'd somehow identify all the free patterns on the list. It was a good suggestion. For easy identification, all of the free shawl patterns on the main list are now set in bold type. You'll find a link to the triangle shawl pattern list in the sidebar under "Freebies."

Now for a teaser. I've been keeping a big secret for the past week. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see what it is.

Thursday, May 24

Spinning demo and fresh handspun

Today, I went to a local elementary school with my friends Elizabeth and Jess to demo spinning for pioneer day activities. We each took our traveling spinning wheel, fiber, handspun, and some finished garments to show off. For two hours, we talked about spinning and fielded questions from scores of young kids. They came through in small groups every 10 minutes or so. Some were bored and others were very interested in what we were doing. Thank goodness they let us set up inside. The rest of the activities were outside on the school grounds where the sun was intense, it was very windy, and the temp was heading for 90 degrees. I would have been burned to a crisp inside a half an hour. Our demo was so well received, I expect we'll be invited back next year. It was a lot of fun.

I plyed the pink/peach merino last night. I had to find something new to spin for the demo. I settled on a blue/purple border leicester with some angelina flash in it. Very colorful and easy for the kids to see what I was spinning. (They kept asking if there are sheep with purple fleece. LOL!) This fiber is some I bought at Greencastle in April. It's roving and not top. It's much more of a challenge to spin evenly and, unfortunately, it has a lot of VM in it. My lap was littered with bits of grass and plant materials by the time the spinning demo was over.

Here's a pic of the pink/peach merino skein. Isn't it yummy? It's 2.5 ounces and 265 yards. I wish I had more of it. It was easy to spin and the colors look great plied up.

Sunday, May 20

Plying on a Little Gem 2

There's been a thread lately on some of the spinning lists about how to ply on a Little Gem 2. I've heard some very strange comments about crossing drive bands and even the bobbin cord. One even said they use a rubber band for tensioning their bobbin!

Some people may be a little confused about which band/cord they are referencing. The Little Gem has a lower drive band that is very thick, an upper drive band that is much thinner, and a bobbin cord that controls the tension on the bobbin.

The lower drive band runs from between the treadles to the front of the bigger wheel above it. I never mess with this lower drive band. If you fold the wheel up, you have to move this drive band to the side. It's not easy to get it back in place. My dealer tells me it's easiest to "roll" it back into place. When transporting my wheel in the car, I place my Little Gem facing backwards in a seat and fasten the seatbelt over it to hold it in place.

The upper drive band goes around the middle of the bigger wheel and the whorl above it. The instruction book directs you to "cross" this drive band when you are plying. I would suggest that you not do this. If you do, it will wear out your drive band where it crosses and rubs against itself. It isn't necessary anyway. It's very easy to get the wheel to spin in a counter clockwise direction for plying without crossing this band.

Here's a closeup picture of the bobbin tension knob and cord. The nylon cord wraps clockwise around the knob, goes over the bobbin, and attaches to a spring that is looped over the bobbin tension knob. The spring helps control the tension on the bobbin.

Turn the knob to the right to make the yarn feed onto the bobbin faster. The spring will expand.

Turn the knob to the left to slow the speed the yarn feeds onto the bobbin. It will add more twist to your single. The spring will contract.

You don't have to turn the knob very much to change the tension on the bobbin. Once I set the bobbin tension for the fiber I'm spinning, I move it in very small increments as the bobbin fills and I need more "pull" onto the bobbin.
The bobbin cord position never changes for spinning or plying. When I'm not using the wheel for a day or so, I slide the bobbin cord off the bobbin. This saves wear and tear on the cord and the spring.

Another note on plying, some people change the flyer hook from the right side to the left side of the flyer when they're plying. I've tried it both ways and I can find no difference. I always leave the flyer hook on the right side of the flyer.

I hope this helps.

Saturday, May 19

It's a huge skein and it's pink!

The Corriedale is plyed, skeined, and washed. It's a HUGE skein---5.3 ounces and 797 yards! It's still very pink. The blue/teal is more muted as some of it washed out when I set the twist. As you might guess from the yardage, this is mostly laceweight with a little in the fingering weight zone. (Click on the picture to get a closer look.) It would knit up into something beautiful--but not for me. I'm debating about putting it up for sale here on my blog or on Ebay. Does $30.00 plus shipping sound reasonable for this large a skein of handspun?

On the right is some merino drafted out ready to spin. Lucious peach, pink, coral, and orange, don't you love the colors? It looks a lot like the Lorna's Lace fiber I bought at Stitches & Scones. This 2.6 ounce lot I got from Amanda Todt. She is destashing to pay some vet bills for her cats. She's still got fiber for sale. Check out the May 10th post here on her blog. I bought a ball of #1, #10 (not pictured), and #16 (above drafted ready to spin). It's all very nice spinning fiber.

Here's a pic of my progress on the square baby blanket. I've finished two corners and am halfway through the third. I'm ready to start increasing. Just above the ball of yarn you can see my provisional cast on in yellow. The small ball of yarn is what's left of the second 6 ounce skein. I still have one more skein to use which should be enough to complete the baby blanket.

This week has continued to be weird. Wednesday night our electricity went out a little after 11 pm. It bounced on and off a few times before staying off. Someone either hit a pole or a tree branch came down on a line. The latter doesn't make any sense because a storm hit the day before. It was clear, still, and cold on Wednesday night. Temps got down to 36 degrees by Thursday morning--not when you want the power to be off. Thankfully, it was back on by 2:30 am. Our doorbell went off and all the lights came on. We got up and turned off everything before going back to bed. This was my second night in a row without enough sleep. I was not a happy camper on Thursday both from lack of sleep and my back hurting.

Today is hubby's birthday. We're off this afternoon to a funeral visitation. Not what any of us want to do, especially on our birthday. The father of a friend died unexpectedly on Thursday. We hope our presence will provide a little comfort for our friends.

I also received news that my Aunt Betty, who has been in the hospital in St. Louis for over 2 weeks, has finally been diagnosed. She has tuberculosis meningitis. I'd never heard of it. It is a rare disease in which the tuberculosis bacteria attacks the membrane surrounding the brain and the spinal column. It's not contagious. Over the past several months my aunt has been losing her ability to walk and take care of herself. The local doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her except an abnormality in her brain that they did not think was cancer. They passed her on to specialists in St. Louis. It took three teams of doctors several weeks and many tests to finally reach a diagnosis. We were horribly afraid she would die before they could decide what was wrong and begin treatment. (Her husband, my Uncle John, died last November. I've been praying hard that my cousins do not lose both of their parents in less than a years time.) Since they started treatment this week, she's starting to improve.

Thursday, May 17

Spring storms

Spring in northern Indiana can be tempestuous. On Tuesday, temps soared to 88 degrees. (The average this time of year is 70 degrees.) It's always dangerous when the temps jump too high, too quickly in the spring. We're almost guaranteed to get wild weather. About 5 pm on Tuesday, a cold front moved through with thunderstorms that dropped the temp over 20 degrees in less than a hour. Two small tornados and some gustnados (dusty mini tornados) were spotted not far from where I live. The University of Notre Dame, a couple of miles east and south of me, suffered some damage to their campus from one of the tornados. A spire fell from the top of the basilica and about 30 trees were uprooted near the Grotto. They've been very busy cleaning up the damage. Notre Dame's graduation is this weekend.

It was pretty scary for awhile. The local TV radar was lit up like a Christmas tree---we were in for a bumpy ride. The sky turned dark, the tornado sirens were wailing, and one of my cats was outside. I rounded him up and was ready to head for the basement when the downdraft winds of the front whammed against our house. The trees in my backyard were bending in the wind and our trash tote wheeled itself halfway across our driveway. Boo went and hid under the bed.

The system moved out in a big hurry, traveling east at 50 mph. Some in this area lost their power, had trees uprooted, or damage to their homes. We were lucky to only have a few leaves blown off our trees.

Wednesday, the chiropractor really worked on my neck and back. He's out of town for a conference on Friday so no appointment. He must have been trying to make up for the lost appointment. :-( I was really aching yesterday.

I finished spinning the pink and green Corriedale before I went to bed. (I still have to ply it.) Went to bed and couldn't get find a comfortable position to sleep. After tossing and turning for an hour and a half, I finally gave up. I got up about 2:30 am. I watched the Lake House movie and worked on the baby blanket. I'm halfway through the third corner. It's mindless knitting which is just what I needed. My concentration was shot. At 4 am I went back to bed and passed out until 9 am this morning. I'm cranky from not getting enough sleep. My back and neck still aches. I'm so glad I don't have another appointment until Monday.

Yesterday was also our 15th wedding anniversary. Saturday is hubby's birthday. Hubby's already got his gifts. He bought me a fold up sewing center for my craft room. It has to be put together. May is a busy month for me what with 4 family birthdays, our wedding anniversary, and Mother's Day. My mom has requested more slippers. She doesn't like the black pair and has managed to lose one of the red ones. I gave her a pair of my wool socks that are a little big on me. She likes them and wants more of them. I told her I'd add her to my list. LOL!

Speaking of my craft room, it's a disaster area. I've been moving things around and going through everything. Some of it has to go to make room for fiber, yarn, and my spinning wheel. I'd like to be able to get in there to sew too. Progress is slow as I have time and my back permits. I may list some of the stuff on Ebay or post it for sale here when I get it all sorted out.

Sunday, May 13

FO's and other news

I did finally finish the pink Opal socks. The first sock didn't take long. The second one did. I don't suffer from second sock syndrome. I have no problem knitting the second sock. The problem has been lack of time and back problems.

I have been seeing a chiropractor to get my back and neck into shape for the last few weeks. It's costing some $$$ I'd rather use for spinning and knitting stuff (the insurance doesn't cover it). I am definitely seeing improvements. I can knit again without my back complaining at me while I'm doing it.

On the spinning front, the lime and periwinkle Corriedale I'd been working on is finished. I completed it about a week ago and forgot to blog about it. I got over 700 yards from the original 4.5 ounce bag of fiber.

The May/June issue of Fiber Femmes is up. I can't believe it! They have a small write up about my triangle shawl pattern contest. Check out the new issue here. They've been after me to write an article about my visit to the Greencastle Fiber Event in April. I'm seriously thinking about it.

The first corner of the square baby blanket is complete. I weighed what's left in the skein I was using and compared it to how much is in a full skein. The good news is I should have enough yarn to knit the entire blanket. This is a pretty mindless knit if you remember to knit one less stitch on the decrease part of corner and one more stitch on the increase part of the corner. I like it!

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Saturday, May 12

Peds footies

About this time of year, someone on one of the knitting lists always asks about a pattern to knit Peds. These are the little socks that don't show in shoes. Here's a pair I knit last year out of leftover sock yarn. It's not my pattern. The original vintage pattern is here and corrections/additions from Susan are here (scroll down to the July 1st post).

These are a fast and easy knitting project. I'm thinking about making some more of them out of scrap sock yarn. Next time, I'll make the sides a little higher to accommodate my high instep. You can see in the picture how high the arch in my foot is.

My current spinning project is Corriedale top that my friend Liz dyed for me in bright pink with hints of teal and blue. The top was a little felted from being dyed. Once I loosened it up and stripped it into lengths, it's spinning up very nicely. I am hoping that plying tones it down a bit. I like it but it is really pink! One bobbin down and one to go.

I started a garter stitch baby blanket the other night with some acrylic yarn from my stash. I hope 18 ounces is enough yarn to make it. The Four Corners Dishcloth on the 1870 Pearl blog piqued my interest. She based her dishcloth pattern on EZ's Square Baby Blanket from the Knitting Workshop book. The technique is an ingenious one. You cast on half the width in stitches and knit it flat in the round using short rows to miter the corners. It's one of those patterns that make you wonder how she ever came up with it! Check out the pattern and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, May 11

Catnip Mouse Toy Pattern

Here it finally is! The long promised pattern for my catnip mice toys. If you'd like to purchase a copy for yourself, please follow the directions below. This is a copyrighted pattern, so please, no sharing.

The mouse is knit from the nose to the tail in one piece. It starts as stockinette and changes to garter stitch. The tail is crocheted using the final stitch. Yes, the ears are knit in as you go. Some people may have trouble with the ears so I've included some detailed pics with the pattern about how to make them. Don't worry, if you follow the directions step-by-step the ears are easy.

All money from this pattern will be donated to Pet Refuge.

For more information, visit my Ravelry pattern store to see all my available designs, current pricing information, and purchase pattern downloads.

Monday, May 7

Bow Tie Tote

Bow Tie Tote

4.5 oz worsted weight synthetic yarn (or use a cotton or wool yarn or plastic bags cut in 1/2" wide strips)

U.S. 10.5 circular needles (or smaller)

Finished bag: 12" x 4" x 11"

Pattern is now available on Ravelry as a free download.

Wednesday, May 2

A pretty skein of yarn

Here's the latest skein of handspun. It's a periwinkle blue and lime green blend that may be Corriedale. This 2.6 oz skein has 380 yards in it. I hope to have the rest spun up soon. Click on the picture to get a closer look.

I was surprised how plying this single muted the original colors. I mean that in a good way. Both were pretty bright in the roving. (Scroll back to my post about Greencastle in early April and you'll see a picture of it.) I'm happy with the spring-y colors of this yarn.

I'm a color freak. I like spinning fiber with two or more colors in it. I'm beginning to get a better "eye" for buying color in roving. I've learn that if both colors are the same strength, the finished yarn may be a little "muddy" looking. It probably will not be as pretty as the original colors in the roving. Some that I've bought that I thought were way too bright are very pretty and more muted in the skein.

Visits to the chiropractor are helping with my neck and back problems. I hope to get back to knitting soon. In the meantime, it's spin, spin, spin.

Tuesday, May 1

Plastic shopping bags + knitting = reusable totes

Plastic bags have been in the news a lot lately. Earth Day has raised consciousness about the problem of tons of plastic shopping bags as well as San Francisco's bold move to ban them in their city. You can buy fabric tote bags or make them yourself, but here's another option--knit your plastic grocery bags into reusable shopping totes.

Click HERE to read about an English woman who knits her own grocery totes. The article shows you how to cut the bags into strips to prepare them for knitting and sketchy directions on how to knit one. She sews the handles onto her bags. I wonder if the handles would be secure enough for heavy items. A buttonhole type bag where the handle is knitted as part of the bag might be stronger. I'd also knit it in the round for no seams and a stronger bag.

Hey, that sounds like the felted bag pattern I came up with a while back. I'd better get busy and knit one with plastic strips to see how it comes out. Pattern to come...